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Showing posts from January, 2017

Imagine a Room Like This

Following on from my last post, which talked about seeing the contents of Andre Breton's studio: the Orangerie, at the edge of the Jardins des Tuileries, houses Monet's giant Nympheas paintings on the upper level, and on the lower level the collection of Paul Guillame. Guillaume was an art dealer who owned many works by Modigliani, Soutine, Matisse, Braque, and Picasso. But what I found really interesting during my last visit was a tiny, dolls' house-sized mock-up of some of the rooms in his apartment:


This was on the Avenue Foch, one of the poshest streets in Paris (it's a wide boulevard that runs west from the Arc de Triomphe). As you can see, if you sat down to eat in the dining room, you could look up and see paintings by Degas, Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso.

And in the living room:


Lots of Picasso and Modigliani, plus some gorgeous furniture.

If you could select 10 paintings to hang on the walls of your living room or dining room, what would they be?

Paris and 'African' Art

One of the signal facts of artistic movements in Paris in the first half of the twentieth century is the influence of African art on the painters and writers who created what we now refer to as Modernism. I put the word African in inverted commas in the title to this post to indicate that what Picasso, Matisse, Breton, and others were borrowing from was as much their own, sometimes erroneous, ideas about Africa, as much as the physical objects that fascinated them so. That said, you can't visit museums in Paris without finding evidence for the importance of this south-to-north current of influence.

The Musee du Quai Branly houses objects from Africa, the Americas, and Oceania, and early in January I made my first ever visit to the collection:



This is the source material, or very similar to it, for the statues that Picasso saw in the Louvre in the early 1900s, and which inspired his 'primitive' painting of the female figure in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, the foundationa…

How to Make A Fish Print the Picasso Way

I saw these photos at the Musee Picasso yesterday, of Picasso making a fish print in the 1950s.

First, eat the fish:


Next, arrange fish on surface with satisfied look on face (your face, not the fish's):


Finally, roll the fish with ink and press paper against it:


Thus did Picasso secure his plaice in printmaking history.

Accidents, by Susan Shaw

Just before Christmas 2016, I taught a short Journal and Sketchbook class at Lillstreet Art Center on Chicago. One of the participants kindly agreed to let me post a piece that she wrote in the class, along with an accompanying sketch.


I felt like an animal. An angry, sweaty animal-anger in my veins. I could hardly sit there.

"Do you feel depressed?" asked Dr. Cook, the shrink.
"Yes", I said. I was only 14 and already I was depressed.
"Well you can’t imagine what real pain is. I got hit by a car. The impact of that car - I will never forget it. Terrible pain. Crash! Right into my legs. You were probably wondering why I have braces and crutches."
"Actually, no", I said. "Can you give me some kind of medicine?"
"We're going to talk first, then maybe medicine. The pain was horrible. Thank god you didn't have to go through it."
Dr. Cook was freaking me out and I felt like smacking her with my hand. Probably my manic depressive…

At the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

I'm in Paris, France, for three weeks, teaching on Columbia College Chicago's study abroad program. The students don't arrive until the weekend, so I'm just relaxing in the city and our rented apartment in Montparnasse, on an easy schedule of one museum per day followed by a nap and a light dinner (with wine, of course).

On Wednesday, we went to the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, near the Place de l'Alma. Half of the permanent collection was closed, but I still saw some seminal twentieth century works. From the first third of the century, there was the giant canvas-mural La Danse, the second version, painted for an American patron in the early 1930s. Inside the vast room that housed the works, there were two small cabinet with some fascinating photos, such as this one of Matisse sketching the mural:


When you enter the hall where the paintings are displayed, you first see the sketched version:


On the right, you can just about see one of the museum do…